As the voting wraps up to determine Hillsboro’s Best Offensive Player of the 2016 season, it is time to turn to the opposite end of the diamond: the pitchers. Let’s start with the, well, starters.
It was a solid year for Hops hurlers, finishing with a 3.80 cumulative Earned Run Average, good for third in the Northwest League.
Your nominees for Best Starting Pitcher for the 2016 Hillsboro Hops…
RHP Tyler Mark
It was a banner year for Tyler Mark in the Northwest League. He was one of three Hillsboro Hops named to the 2016 All-Star Game in Ogden, Utah where he threw a scoreless inning. He led the league in starts made with 15, finished second in strikeouts with 75, and third in ERA at 3.91.
Mark’s final numbers: 5-5, 3.91, 78.1 IP, 23 BB, 75 K. His month of July was particularly impressive: 3-0, 2.80 ERA in 6 starts.
When pitching at home, Tyler Mark was almost untouchable. In seven starts at Ron Tonkin Field, Mark was 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA. When Mark had all of his offerings working at once, he may have been the best pitcher in the Northwest League.
LHP Anfernee Benitez
The Panamanian southpaw was a force all season long in Hillsboro. Benitez led the entire Northwest League in wins with seven, and finished second in the circuit in ERA with a 3.48 clip.
Benitez and teammate Tyler Mark battled nearly the entire season for the strikeout lead on the team, but Benitez fell just shy with 71. That total was still good for third in the NWL.
He was consistently solid anywhere you placed him. In July he posted an ERA of 2.92 and in August, 3.31. At home he worked to a 3.38 ERA, and on the road, 3.58. No matter where or when Benitez was, his team had a chance when he was on the mound, and that is the most important part of being a starting pitcher.
Despite being one of Hillsboro’s top starters, Benitez’s best performance of the year came in a relief appearance. After Wei-Chieh Huang couldn’t escape the first inning in Everett back on August 5th, Benitez came on and threw 6.1 shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five. He gave his team a chance to claw back into the game — and they did. Benitez was credited with the win for his efforts.
RHP Bo Takahashi
Though Bo Takahashi wasn’t with the Hillsboro Hops for the entire 2016 season, he left an indelible mark on the team.
He lacked the quantity of innings required to qualify for league-leading statistics, but had he been around for the entire campaign, it’s likely he would have led in multiple categories.
In 50.1 innings and 10 starts, Takahashi went 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA. In those 50.1 innings, he allowed just 39 hits, good for a minuscule .212 batting average against.
The 19-year old Brazilian pitched at all three A-ball levels in 2016 and was solid everywhere. As a teenager in the California League with the Advanced-A Visalia Rawhide, Takahashi posted an ERA of 4.00 even with eight strikeouts in nine innings. At Long-A Kane County, he went 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings. His exploits with Hillsboro have been well documented.
At home starts at Ron Tonkin Field in 2016: 3-0, 1.44 ERA in five starts.
So who’s it gonna be? Bo, Benny, or Tyler?
Well folks, it’s that time of year again. The 2016 Hops season is a wrap, and it’s now time to hand out some hardware. The front office staff has compiled some highlights and fun moments from the 2016 season, and it is now the responsibility of you, the fan, to determine which Hops from the 2016 team walk away with awards. That’s right — the Second Annual Hillsboro Hops Fan Vote Awards has arrived, and the first category to be determined is “Best Offensive Player.”
The nominees please…
Jason Morozowski, OF
J-Mo was a potent bat wherever stationed in the lineup, and skipper Shelley Duncan rolled him out most often at the top of it. He didn’t disappoint. In 38 games with the Hops Morozowski posted a slash line of .291/.370/.597/.967. His .597 slugging percentage led the team by 134 points, and his .967 OPS also paced the club. Considering a very good slugging percentage is anything in the .400s, and an elite OPS is anything in the .800s, J-Mo’s respective marks of .597 and .967 are very impressive.
Digging into more traditional stats, Morozowski launched nine home runs, leading the Hops by four. He finished in a tie for second in home runs in the entire Northwest League. Salem-Keizer’s Gio Brusa hit ten, and Eugene’s Wladimir Galindo matched Morozowski’s nine. However, Brusa hit his ten in 53 games and 220 at-bats, and Galindo hit his nine in 66 games and 247 at-bats. J-Mo hit nine in just 38 games and 134 at-bats. It’s fair to say with a few more chances, Morozowski likely would have claimed the NWL home run title.
Josh Anderson, 3B
Whenever “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys started pumping through the speakers at Ron Tonkin Field, a little bit of excitement began to murmur through the crowd. The popular refrain signaled an at-bat by Hillsboro’s Josh Anderson, who wasn’t a welcome sight for the unlucky guy standing 60 feet, 6 inches away.
Anderson was a stalwart in Duncan’s line-up, most often entrenched in the 3-hole. The big third baseman led the NWL in batting average for a period during the season, with only a late-season swoon dropping his season-long average to .307, good for fifth in the league.
He knocked five homers, including the first ever grand slam at Ron Tonkin Field on August 28th in a win over Boise that clinched a playoff spot for Hillsboro. He also provided the heroics in the early season when he ripped a walk-off single to beat Tri-City on July 8th. His 65 hits finished second on the team, and his 34 runs batted in matched Luke Lowery for the team lead.
The law firm of Morozowski and Anderson was potent all year.
Mark Karaviotis, 1B/2B/SS
Karaviotis arrived in Hillsboro almost immediately after infielder Sergio Alcantara was promoted to Kane County. While Sergio was a fan-favorite, Karaviotis endeared himself to the home crowd with aplomb.
The former Oregon Duck stepped into the void left by Alcantara at shortstop and delivered immediately. He fell just shy of qualifying for league awards just because he didn’t log enough at-bats. However, his .344 batting average in 41 games led the Hops by a significant margin.
He also showed incredibly strong plate discipline, drawing 21 walks in 41 games. He also set a franchise record in times hit by pitch with 12. All of that led to a remarkably high .473 on base percentage. The highest qualifying OBP all year belonged to Everett’s Eric Filia at .450, showing that Karaviotis was quite possibly the toughest statistical out in the NWL.
Luke Lowery, C/DH/1B
Luke Lowery may have been the strongest all-around athlete on the 2016 Hops. He could hit for power, average and steal bases and it’s all reflected in his season-end numbers. He finished with a slash line of .264/.334/.379/.714.
LuLo was a rock in Duncan’s line-up all season, and he’s most remembered for an absolutely torrid stretch of games in the middle of the season. Entering the July 26 contest with Boise, Lowery’s average had fallen to .218. He was scuffling. Over the next nine games, a span of 13 days, he went a baffling 21-for-43 to boost his average to .290. That’s right — in two weeks, he got so hot his average jumped 72 points.
His stretch culminated on August 7th at Everett when he matched a team record by going 5-for-5. He had three doubles and a homer in the game to finish with 11 total bases on that day alone. He knocked in five.
Lowery led the team in games played, hits, doubles, total bases and tied for the lead in RBI’s. Some of the reason he leads in all these categories is because he was around all season and always in the line-up, but he must be credited for producing to be given those opportunities.
He also led the team in stolen bases with 20 which is impressive when you remember he spends his life in a perpetual crouch and weighs 230 pounds. Athleticism.
The choice is yours, fans! Who was the Best Offensive Player for the 2016 Hops? Is your choice not listed? Add a comment with your nominee.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, parent club for the Hillsboro Hops, just wrapped up a disappointing season. They finished 69-93, climbing out of the cellar of the National League West with a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the final series of the season. If there’s any silver lining to a tough season at the big-league level, it’s the fact that the parent club will have an early pick in next year’s draft to infuse some new talent into the organization. When the regular season wrapped up, Arizona finished with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
In the last few seasons, the Diamondbacks have established a trend in their draft selections. Generally, if a collegiate player is selected in the first round, there’s a good chance his first assignment is to Hillsboro to begin his professional career. In 2015, Arizona selected shortstop Dansby Swanson with their first pick, and he was sent here. In 2016, they selected outfielder Anfernee Grier with their first pick, and he started with us too. It stands to reason that whomever the D-backs select seventh overall may very well play some ball in Hillsboro.
So let’s look back at a few drafts and see what diamonds were selected with the seventh overall pick…
2015 Draft: Boston Red Sox select OF Andrew Benintendi
Boston has assembled a seriously impressive core of talented young players with the likes of Jackie Bradley, Jr, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, Andrew Benintendi.
Benintendi shot through Boston’s system incredibly quickly, logging just 151 minor league games. In his time in the minor leagues, he hit .312 and knocked 20 homers while driving in 107 runs.
His big league debut came August 2, 2016, not even 14 months after he was drafted. In 34 games with Boston, he hit .295 with fourteen extra base hits and established himself as an integral part of the future at Fenway Park.
2014 Draft: Philadelphia Phillies select RHP Aaron Nola
Philadelphia selected right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola seventh overall in 2014, and he’s been excellent early in his big league career.
Nola was another quick-mover through the minor league system, logging a total of 164.2 innings across three different levels before his big league debut. In his time in the minors, he went 14-7 with a 2.57 ERA.
His major league debut came July 21, 2015 which is incredible when you consider he signed his first pro contract on June 12, 2014. To this point in his career, the 23-year old is 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA for the Phillies. He should only improve moving forward.
2011 Draft: Arizona Diamondbacks select RHP Archie Bradley
This won’t be the first time the D-backs have selected seventh overall. Back in the ’11 draft, Arizona took Archie Bradley out of Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma. As a high-school pick, Bradley had a longer road through the minor leagues, but he seems to have established himself as a member of Arizona’s rotation.
Bradley’s journey through the minors was arduous, which is pretty standard for those jumping into pro ball at age 18. He was consistently excellent in his extensive minor league career, compiling a 35-19 record with a 3.01 ERA across 443 total innings. He averaged more than a strikeout per inning, finishing with 472.
His big league results have been middling, but if you look a little deeper there are signs of a very good pitcher. On the surface he is 10-12 with a 5.18 ERA across 177.1 innings. However, in 141.2 big-league innings this year, he struck out 143 batters which shows that his stuff is capable of fooling major league hitters.
2010 Draft: New York Mets select RHP Matt Harvey
If you’re a baseball fan, you know the name Matt Harvey. The Mets selected the Dark Knight with the seventh overall pick six years ago and he quickly changed the complexion of their franchise.
His first two years in the big leagues were astonishing, highlighted by an All-Star season in 2013. That year, he finished 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings. He was fourth in Cy Young balloting in the National League.
He’s been plagued by health concerns intermittently throughout his career, but there’s no doubt the Diamondbacks would be happy if they ended up with a guy like Harvey at the seventh overall pick.
2006 Draft: Los Angeles Dodgers select LHP Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw, also known as the Greatest Pitcher on Planet Earth, is perhaps the most notable player ever selected with the seventh overall pick.
If you’re unfamiliar with the exploits of Kershaw, just know that the worst ERA he has posted in his last six seasons was 2.53, when he finished second in Cy Young balloting. He is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and holds a career 126-60 record with a 2.37 lifetime ERA. In an injury-shortened 2016 season, he logged 149 innings, but still struck out 172 while walking only 11 batters. That’s right: 172 strikeouts and 11 walks. Silly.
We’d take Kershaw.
2005 Draft: Colorado Rockies select SS Troy Tulowitzki
Troy Tulowitzki has been perhaps the most talented offensive shortstop of the last decade in the major leagues. He played ten seasons for Colorado, ripping 188 home runs in the span. In his time playing for the Rockies, he made five National League All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves for his defense at shortstop. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 and you’ll be able to see him in the American League Divisional Series beginning this week when Toronto takes on the Texas Rangers.
2002 Draft: Milwaukee Brewers select 1B Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder became known as one of the greatest sluggers of his era. The son of famous former big-leaguer Cecil Fielder, Prince was a chip off the old block.
Before injuries unfortunately cut his career short in the 2016 season, Fielder had amassed 319 home runs for three different big-league teams. He made six All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards. His best season came in 2009 when we played in all 162 games for the Brewers, hitting .299 with 46 home runs and 141 runs driven in.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of talent available at the seventh overall pick. If the D-backs scout effectively, there’s a chance we may see a future All-Star donning Hillsboro blue when our 2017 season gets underway. However, for as many success stories as there are at that pick, there are some landmines. And as always, we never know for sure that whomever the D-backs select will be sent to Hillsboro.
But it sure is fun to think about.
Well, the Hops did not make history by going back-to-back-to-back, but the 2016 season was not without its own history. When we look back on this season, I think we will realize that 2016 was truly one of the most remarkable years in the history of short-season baseball, even if it did not culminate in a title.
The 2016 Hillsboro Hops set a record for roster moves and players used in a single-season in the Northwest League. When the year ended, 63 different players had taken the field in Hops blue. The previous record was 56. Consider that the Hops only have 42 jerseys — with four allocated to on-field coaching staff. The locker room was a bit cramped at times.
Oftentimes if a team is making a ton of roster moves, it is to try to improve a bad team. In this case, amidst all the turnover, Hillsboro continually fielded a quality team. The boys got off to a tough 3-8 start, but stuck a stake in the ground and turned it around. After the first 11 games, the Hops went 39-25 to finish the season 42-33. All of this despite having to constantly reintroduce yourself to whoever was occupying the locker next to you today.
The 63 Hops who suited up in 2016 (in alphabetical order): Sergio Alcantara, Josh Anderson, Kirby Bellow, Anfernee Benitez, Palmer Betts, Nick Blackburn, Max Brown, Justin Chigbogu, Nic Coffman, Paxton De La Garza, Ben DeLuzio, Stephen Dezzi, Jon Duplantier, Max Duval, Ethan Elias, Billy Endris, Tommy Eveld, Junior Garcia, Kevin Ginkel, Alex Gouin, Connor Grey, Anfernee Grier, Jason Heinrich, Ramon Hernandez, Wei-Chieh Huang, Dean Jackson, Manny Jefferson, Mark Karaviotis, Mack Lemieux, Luke Lowery, Tyler Mark, Francis Martinez, Jose Martinez, Austin Mason, Matt McPhearson, Jeferson Mejia, Jason Morozowski, Dallas Newton, Chad Oberacker, Alexis Olmeda, Connor Owings, Julio Perez, Matt Pobereyko, Colin Poche, Jose Queliz, Matt Railey, Wesley Rodriguez, Joey Rose, Luis Silverio, Trevor Simms, Jeff Smith, Riley Smith, Stephen Smith, Gavin Stupienski, Bo Takahashi, Curtis Taylor, Luis Veras, Adam Walton, Tucker Ward, Jordan Watson, Marcus Wilson, Jake Winston, and Taylor Wright.
All told, 31 different hitters logged an at-bat, and 32 different pitchers made appearances.
The constant theme amid a season of uncertainty was the support of Hops fans everywhere. Every single year the players tell us how much it means to play in front of such an energetic crowd, with Jake Winston likening it to an atmosphere at a football game.
The energy in the building in the lone home playoff game was palpable — and it leads to tangible on-field results. Do you realize the Hops have never lost a home playoff game? The 2014 team went 2-0 at Ron Tonkin Field in the postseason, the 2015 squad went 3-0, and the 2016 iteration went 1-0. Added up, your boys are 6-0 when they play in front of you in the postseason. That is a tip of the cap to you, the fans, as much as it is to the men in uniform.
Yeah, it hurts the trophy has a new home for a year. We had it for close to 800 days, and I think deep down we felt like we would have another 365. But all good things come to an end. I suppose it takes the agony of losing to truly appreciate that winning feeling from the last two seasons.
We must thank all of our HOPSpitality staff, who do such a phenomenal job creating an incredible atmosphere at #TheTonk, and for making sure everyone feels like they are at home whenever they are in our home. Another sincere thank you to Chef Dale Moore and Tommy Wright, who head up concessions here at the yard. All those cool graphics and videos up on HopsVision? That is the work of Barrett Brenner and his production staff, and they are the best in the NWL.
The last thank you goes to the best fans in the Northwest League — Hops Nation. You guys are #AllHoppedUp all the time, and man does that make things fun for us. Thanks for everything you do. We cannot wait for Opening Day in 2017, where we will fight to get that trophy back where it belongs.
The Hops have officially sent their fifth former player to MLB. The Atlanta Braves announced Tuesday that they would select the contract of shortstop Dansby Swanson from the Double-A Mississippi Braves of the Southern League. Swanson famously began his professional career with the Hillsboro Hops after being selected first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Swanson’s call to the big leagues comes on the heels of four other former Hops to scale the mountaintop. Aaron Blair, Zac Curtis, Mike Freeman, Braden Shipley and now Dansby Swanson have all cracked big-league rosters.
His first game with Hillsboro came August 12th, 2015, and his first hit came on August 15th. His movement up the minor league system was rapid following an offseason trade from the Diamondbacks to the Atlanta Braves.
He was assigned to Advanced-A Carolina in Atlanta’s system to start 2016 where he hit .333 in 21 games to earn a quick promotion to Double-A Mississippi. He hasn’t set the world on fire in the Southern League, but he has been a steady .260 hitter and as always, a top-notch defender at short and leader in the clubhouse.
It is particularly special for Swanson to play for the Atlanta Braves, as he is a native of Marietta, Georgia. Atlanta is out of playoff contention so it is likely that Swanson will get an extended look at shortstop.
Congratulations to you Dansby! You’ll always be #AllHoppedUp.
The All-Star Game turned out to be a blast (literally there were 3 home runs hit, none of them less than 375 feet). The Northwest League ended up winning 11-5 while me, Tommy and Jake ended up throwing scoreless innings so it was a successful night for the Hops Nation!
Playing with and against the best players in the two leagues was a great experience. You see so much talent and great competition that it fires you up to keep working hard to reach the Major Leagues. It was also great to play with guys that we play against during the year. Some may think it’s awkward because we play against them and all but at the end of the day we’re baseball players chasing the same dream so it sort of brings us together in a way.
Fan fest and the Home Run Derby had to be my favorite part of the All-Star Game. Before the game they sat us down at a table and had us sign autographs for 15 minutes and talk to some fans. Signing autographs means a lot to me. It’s amazing that some catscratch from a minor leaguer can brighten up someone’s day. The HR Derby was also pretty fun to watch. Gio Brusa from Salem-Keizer ended up winning it all, so pretty much next time I face him he won’t be seeing any fastballs.
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the actual game!!! Before the game I was excited and anxious to just get out there and pitch. I got the usual butterflies before game time but I reminded myself that it’s just a game and have as much fun as possible. To be honest, my only goal for the game was to not give up a home run because when I give them up they’re not cheap ones. And playing in the Pioneer League the ball absolutely flies so I’m thankful I didn’t break my neck during my inning. I threw the second inning of the game and things went smooth for me.1-2-3 inning with a strikeout. That’s all I could ask for.
Pitching in the game wasn’t the highlight of the night. The highlight wasn’t anything baseball related. It was a conversation with a 10 year old named Curtis in the bullpen. Curtis was this kid that loved baseball. He lives in Salt Lake City which is 45 minutes from Ogden. He told me he loves going to Ogden Raptors games because he gets a chance to talk the players and learn about them. He was a very nice kid but the guy could talk. I mean 4-5 innings long just going on and on, and for the first time in my life I think I became annoyed.
I asked him what his favorite thing about baseball was, and he gave me the most mature answer I’ve ever heard from a 10 year old. He said, “I love baseball because it teaches you how to fail. You’re going to fail in life and in the game but it’s important to never give up and keep going.” I was so shocked by his response. I remember when I was 10 and playing little league if I struck out I’d cry my eyes out and think the world was coming to an end. It’s crazy how much you can learn from people. It doesn’t matter who they are or how old they are. That moment right there tops staying in bed watching Netflix for the couple days we had off.
Going into the second half, my goal is to finish the year out strong and help bring another Northwest League Championship to Hillsboro. Thank you for reading these last couple days and stay #AllHoppedUp!
Hello Hops Nation! This is starting pitcher Tyler Mark reporting live from beautiful Ogden, Utah for the 2016 Northwest League-Pioneer League All-Star game!
Jake, Tommy, me and the Hops front office traveled to Ogden yesterday morning and it felt like such a long day. Jake, Tommy and I were all pooped. I’m pretty sure we mixed in a nap whenever we could. The flight was a smooth one and there weren’t any delays so everything went according to plan and that’s always great. The first half for us was a good one; we started off on a slow start but as the season progressed we started playing as a team and getting comfortable with one another and finished the first half strong. Our goal is to take that momentum from the end of the first half and keep on improving as a whole to win the second half of the season!
Trusting the process is a huge thing in baseball. You can never get too high or get too low. Baseball is just a game filled with ups and downs. Seeing the team start off 3-8 and finish the half strong is a perfect example of trusting the process. We didn’t let our start affect the way we were going to finish. I’ve learned to trust the process a lot more during my first full season of professional baseball. This year I started off with the Kane County Cougars, our Low-A affiliate, and I probably had the worst month possible. We’re talking 0-5 with a gazillion ERA. That first month was tough. I began to doubt myself and lose confidence. I’m not afraid to admit it because it happened and I learned from it, which is the silver lining. Failing in Kane County actually helped me become a NWL All-Star. Crazy how all that works out.
When I was selected to the All-Star team, I was very excited and proud of myself. It’s really nice to see all the hard work in the offseason and spring training finally work out. I found out I made the All-Star team when I received a text from my mom congratulating me. I still don’t know how she found out before me…to be honest she probably found out before the whole NWL. When I found out I made the All-Star team I didn’t tell anyone personally. I believe I was pitching the next day so just preparing myself for that was my main priority.
Opening day festivities were a blast in Utah. This is my first time here and it didn’t disappoint. The opening ceremony was on top of this huge mountain. We had to take a 15 minute gondola ride which was awesome and frightening at the same time. We received these awesome coins and pins for being All-Stars and the dinner was great. Still not better than Jeferson Mejia’s sandwiches that he makes in the clubhouse though. Today is the All-Star game and I can’t wait to be a part of it!! Thank you Hops nation!! #AllHoppedUp
The rosters for the 2016 Northwest League vs. Pioneer League All-Star Game were announced Tuesday and three members of the Hillsboro Hops were named to the Northwest League team. Relief pitchers Jake Winston and Tommy Eveld and starting pitcher Tyler Mark will represent the Hops in Ogden, Utah on Tuesday, August 2nd.
Jake Winston has become one of the most trusted arms out of Shelley Duncan’s bullpen this season. In 15 appearances this season, Winston is 1-0 with an ERA of exactly 2.00. He has struck out 19 and walked only 6 in his 18 innings of work. Northwest League hitters are managing a paltry .179 batting average against him.
It’s Winston’s first year in professional baseball after being drafted in the 17th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Tommy Eveld is another reliever that Duncan has turned to very often in close situations. He has appeared in 12 games, working to a 1-1 record and a 2.51 ERA. He has struck out 13 batters across 14.1 innings, issuing only three walks. Hitters have posted a batting average of .208 against Eveld this season.
“Touchdown” Tommy Eveld is in his first year of professional baseball after being drafted in the 9th round of the 2016 draft by the Diamondbacks. A former quarterback and wide receiver at the University of South Florida, Eveld switched to baseball following two major knee injuries. He has taken to the craft quickly.
Tyler Mark is the last member of the Hops named to the NWL team this season. He has been the strongest starting pitcher for Hillsboro this season, currently leading the NWL in strikeouts (47), innings pitched (45.2) and games started (8). He has a 3-2 record, and his ERA of 3.55 is fifth in the league among pitchers with enough innings to qualify.
Mark has been particularly effective when pitching at Ron Tonkin Field, holding a 2-0 record with a 0.89 ERA across 20.1 innings in Hillsboro. He is a second-year Hop after spending much of 2015 in Hillsboro. He was drafted in the 6th round out of Concordia in the 2015 draft.
Congratulations to all three of our All-Star Hops!
A banner year for former Hillsboro Hops continued Monday when Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale, announced Braden Shipley, a 2013 Hillsboro Hop, will be called up to make his major league debut on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Shipley becomes the fourth Hop to crack a big-league roster in 2016 alone, following Aaron Blair with the Atlanta Braves, Zac Curtis with the Diamondbacks, and Mike Freeman with the Diamondbacks.
Shipley’s promotion should come as no surprise to those who have paid attention to his gradual improvement in the minor leagues. In 19 starts this year with the Triple-A Reno Aces, Shipley is 8-5 with a 3.70 ERA. While those numbers on the surface may not appear overwhelmingly impressive, when you consider that he is doing this in the hitter’s haven of the Pacific Coast League, a major league call-up was always imminent.
The native of Medford, Oregon had a long, steady journey to the big leagues since being drafted by the D-backs in the first round of the 2013 draft. His first assignment in pro ball was with the Hillsboro Hops, where he went 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in eight games. In 19.1 innings, he struck out 24 and walked just 6.
After Hillsboro, he was simply reliable in every stop up the minor league chain. He was consistently solid in two stints with the South Bend SilverHawks, Arizona’s former Long-A affiliate in the Midwest League, and then thrived in the California League with the Visalia Rawhide, another league that is extremely difficult to pitch in.
His prospect-hood took off in the second-half of the 2015 season when he was pitching for the Mobile BayBears of the Double-A Southern League. In 14 games (13 starts), Shipley went 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA across 84.2 innings. His strikeouts also spiked, from 50 in the first half to 68 in the second half.
His next challenge is the final frontier. Evaluators like to see their top prospects striking out a lot of batters in the minor leagues. It shows that they have stuff to beat hitters beyond allowing opposing hitters to put the ball in play consistently. Shipley has shown flashes of strikeout potential, but will need to improve upon that to find consistent success in the big leagues. In 119.1 innings with Reno this year, he’s logged 77 strikeouts and has given up 131 hits.That shows two things: 1) the ball is being put in play against him and 2) he’s good at pitching with runners on base.
Shipley is always improving and his minor league numbers bear that out. It remains to be seen how long Shipley’s major-league assignment will be, as D-backs’ ace Zack Greinke appears close to being ready to come off of the disabled list. If Shipley pitches well however, it may leave the front office no choice but to keep him on the roster.
Congratulations Braden! We’re #AllHoppedUp for you.
We’re approaching the end of the first half of the Northwest League season and the Hops currently sport a record of 15-16. Claiming the first half crown would take a nearly-impossible feat as Eugene currently leads the South Division by seven games – with seven remaining in the first half. The only chance Hillsboro has to extend their four-half winning-streak would be by winning all remaining seven games in the first half, and Eugene losing all seven remaining games. But if there was one word to describe baseball, “yajustneverknow.”
Other first-half musings…
Basepath bandits: Through 31 games, the Hops have swiped 55 bases. The next closest is Eugene at 47. The main thieves: Marcus Wilson has 12 which is currently tied for the NWL individual lead, Anfernee Grier with 9, and someone you may not expect, catcher Luke Lowery with 8. Lowery stole 8 total bases in 67 games last year with Missoula, and has reached that same total in just 26 with Hillsboro in 2016.
Farewell Sergio: Fan-favorite, slick-fielding shortstop Sergio Alcantara was promoted to Kane County on July 17th. His glove will always be his best tool with an infield arm that is unmatched by any prospect in the Diamondbacks chain. The question with Sergio will always be the bat, and he laid those doubts to rest in 15 games with Hillsboro in 2016. He hit .319 in 47 at-bats with the Hops, and also managed to walk ten times in those 15 games for an on-base percentage of .441 – signs of an advanced approach. He was his normal smooth self in the field, routinely turning in plays that others can’t.
We weren’t the only ones that noticed as the Arizona developmental staff moved him up to Kane County. We’ve probably seen the last of Sergio in Hillsboro – and that’s a good thing. Congrats, Serg.
The new Duck in town: With the departure of Alcantara to Kane County, Hillsboro needed a shortstop. Enter Mark Karaviotis, Arizona’s 19th round selection in the 2016 draft and an alumnus of the University of Oregon. Karaviotis missed most of his final collegiate season with a shoulder injury in 2016, but would you believe that he played at Ron Tonkin Field in 2015 when Oregon hosted Seattle University?
That’s right! On April 1, 2015 Oregon defeated Seattle 4-0 and Karaviotis went 1×4 with 2rbi as an Oregon Duck playing at Ron Tonkin Field. Now he’s a Hop, and he calls The Tonk home. Who would have thought?
On the Mark: It wouldn’t be out of the question to say that Tyler Mark has been Hillsboro’s top starting pitcher thus far, though Anfernee Benitez may like a word. While Mark has mixed in his share of clunkers, when he’s on top of this game, there’s no doubt he’s one of the best pitchers in the NWL.
But an interesting, and possibly troubling, trend has emerged with Mark on his home/road splits. Check it out:
Mark at Ron Tonkin Field: 2-0, 0.89 ERA, 3 GS, 20.1 IP, 13 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 21 K
Mark elsewhere: 0-2, 8.78 ERA, 3 GS, 13.1 IP, 22 H, 13 ER, 4 BB, 14 K
This trend is nowhere near unusual as players develop. There’s simply comfort found at home, and once Mark finds his footing on the road, he’ll be punching a ticket to Kane County.
Ni Hao: Arizona recently sent Hillsboro a new starting pitcher: Taiwanese native Wei-Chieh Huang. Here’s a pronunciation guide, and remember in Taiwan the surname comes first: “who-AHNG, way chee-ay.”
But who is he as a pitcher? Glad you asked. According to mlbpipeline.com, Huang is the #4 prospect in the entire Diamondbacks chain. Arizona signed him in 2014 out of Taiwan for a reported $450,000. He spent most of 2015 with Kane County where he went 7-3 with a 2.00 ERA in 76.2 innings. He’s down here in Hillsboro to rehab an injury, so we probably won’t have him very long. We’ll try to enjoy it while we do!
Gettin’ Chiggy: An obvious fan-favorite has emerged in the early goings in Hillsboro, and his name is Justin Chigbogu. He’s a behemoth of a man and his power prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Through July 19, Chigbogu is locked in a five-way tie for the NWL-lead in homers with four. He’s always a threat, and you get the feeling that he’s going to unleash a barrage sometime in the near future.
Parting thought: Though it’s very unlikely Hillsboro will take the first-half crown, there is ALWAYS incentive to win with how the play-off formula works in the NWL. They can make the play-offs still in two different ways. 1) they can win the second-half crown or 2) if Eugene wins the second-half title, Hillsboro would need to finish with a better full-season record than the other two teams of the NWL South: Salem-Keizer and Boise.
Keep the faith, Hops fans! Back-to-back-to-back is still in play.